208 killed in Mogadishu

May 25, 2009 12:00 am

, MOGADISHU, May 25 – More than two weeks of fighting between pro-government forces and insurgents in the Somali capital have left at least 208 people dead and 700 wounded, a government minister said.

"We have conducted a count and 208 people have been killed so far while more than 700 have been wounded," Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Mohamoud Ibrahim Garweyne told a press conference in Mogadishu late Sunday.

The latest round of bloodletting in the Somali capital kicked off on May 7 when hardline Islamist groups launched a fresh offensive aimed at removing internationally-backed President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

Sharif and a handful of ministers have been holed up in the presidential compound for days, with little firepower of their own to repel the insurgents and African Union (AU) peacekeepers holding the fort.

"I can tell you that 80 percent of the people killed and injured are civilians who were caught in the crossfire," Garweyne said.

With the two main insurgent groups — the Shebab and Hezb al-Islamiya — resorting to street guerrilla tactics and AU peacekeepers firing artillery from their fortified positions, civilians have borne the brunt of the violence.

"The clashes have also displaced 8,367 families, who have reached temporary camps outside the capital where their livelihoods are very precarious," the minister said.

Over the weekend, the United Nations put the number of people displaced by the latest fighting at 57,000.

The seaside capital has been ravaged by 18 years of almost uninterrupted civil conflict and hundreds of thousands of people had already fled following Ethiopia’s invasion in late 2006.


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